High Drama: Four ways to strengthen your staff

Learn effective tools for dealing with workplace drama.

By Michele Faehnle

Even though we work in Catholic Schools, drama exists in our workplace. The teacher’s lounge can be a place of complaining, gossiping, arguments, and unproductive communication. Drama is a destructive activity that exists among coworkers in all professions.

Since many schools are staffed by a female-dominated workforce, there is a tendency toward a higher amount of drama. Some people’s personalities naturally lead them to be more dramatic than others. Signs of high drama are people who hold grudges, gossip about others, and those who spread rumors. Others may draw attention to themselves by overreacting to a situation or event with tears or outbursts. Although you can never complete avoid drama in the workplace, it is vital that we strive to rise above it to make our schools positive learning environments and build teams instead of tearing down.

Many of us may deal with drama by ignoring it, yet there are some other effective tools we can use to minimize drama. I spoke with Linda Saunders, LNHA, a presenter on preventing drama in the workplace, who shared five tips with me on handling drama at work. Saunders suggests following the M.O.D.E.L. Method.

1)  Model. When faced with a conflict, disagreements or challenges, model the desired non-melodramatic behavior by balancing your reactions and emotions instead of behaving, speaking, or acting in a way that is more dramatic, shocking, or highly emotional than the situation demands. Instead, refocus the situation on something positive.

2)  Object. Object to melodramatic activity that slanders or is hurtful to another co-worker. Refrain from participating in gossip, unproductive speculation, and complaining. Instead, create a positive culture in which employees call each other out on drama.

3)  Decide. Decide against becoming a drama king or queen yourself! Don’t cloud discussions with emotion and overly dramatic responses. Remember there are always two sides to every story. Wisdom would suggestion that you not pre-judge or second-guess, but instead, try giving the benefit of the doubt.

4)  Engage. Be sensitive to ways you can help drama-makers in your workplace filter their emotions and reduce the impact on other co-workers. Some people enjoy creating conflict and thrive on confrontation. Helping coworkers focus on their responsibilities limits opportunities for engaging in conflict.

5)  Listen. Calmly listen and watch the dramatic tale unfold instead of feeding the fire by overreacting. Learn to take a deep breath when you are emotionally triggered. Breathing turns off the adrenaline pump that fuels drama. Remind yourself to take it “with a grain of salt” since drama-makers are overly dramatic in responses to events.

Saunders also shared a few suggestions to help strengthen your staff and help avoid drama:

Facilitate regular staff meetings to address the issues at hand.

Often, open dialogue about what is going in your school on can allay fears and keep rumors from starting.

Teach problem solving skills.

The best way for people to learn problem solving is “by proper instruction and ample practice with quality feedback.”(https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-strengthen-team-problem-solving-skills-4123663) Teachers may be incorporating problem solving skills in their curriculum, but problem solving is a life skill that can grow over time.

Require rejuvenation.

Taking time out for colleagues to get to know each other through social or retreat activities helps build relationships and allows for better communication. Encouraging times of rest and enjoyment also helps reduce stress, prevents burnout and promotes a healthy work life balance.

Be the change you wish to see.

We cannot change others, only ourselves. By modeling non-dramatic behavior and dealing with situations pragmatically instead of leading with emotion, we can set the bar high for others.

Michele Faehnle, RN, BSN, is the school nurse at St. Andrew School, Columbus, Ohio and co-author of Divine Mercy for Moms and The Friendship Project.

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